Friday, August 07, 2009


How foolish were we to think the Mariners could sweep the Royals? Good teams might look at a pitcher like Bruce Chen and think it'll be an easy time and they'll pound the crap out of him. The Mariners, though, perform like Chen's due for a win or something. Thus, Chen escaped this game with his first win since the end of the 2005 season. If there's one person the Mariners won't miss after this series, it's Billy Butler. The man can hit a baseball a long way. I'm glad the playoff chase is out of the picture, or else I'd be a lot more worried about the search for another innings-eater in the rotation not named Felix Hernandez. Tonight, Don Wakamatsu left Jason Vargas on the mound for seven innings even though all eight Royal runs crossed the plate on his watch. If the Mariners were still in the race, there might have been a chance we'd have seen Vargas not make it through the first inning. It almost seemed like Kansas City knew what pitches were coming, though it was more like horrible location. I'd have to say the best candidates for innings eating would have to be Ryan Rowland-Smith and Jason Vargas. Lucas French and Ian Snell are kind of wildcards.

This loss dropped the Mariners' record to 56-52 after 108 games. This pace is four games worse than the 2007 pace, but three better than 2006, nine better than 2005, 15 better than last year, and 16 better than 2004. Fifty-six wins is also six worse than 2000, 10 worse than 2002 and 2003, and 22 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when getting their 52nd loss: 69-52 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 77-52 in 2002, 76-52 in 2003, 32-52 in 2004, 41-52 in 2005, 48-52 in 2006, 66-52 in 2007, and 33-52 last year.

Seattle hitting went 12-for-36 on the night, walking once and striking out four times. The team also went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners. Rob Johnson doubled and Mike Sweeney homered to account for the Mariners' only extra-base hits. Sweeney's homer was his 100th in Kansas City in probably his last game in the city where he spent all or parts of 13 seasons, and he got a nice smattering of applause as a result from the home crowd. Ichiro, Rob Johnson, and Michael Saunders had two hits apiece while Adrian Beltre somehow managed four hits. The Mariners with two hits make for a nice clumpy stat -- the 8-9-1 hitters went 6-for-13 on the night with a double. What do those three hitters and Beltre have in common? Well, they accounted for 10 of the Mariners' 12 hits, but they managed to drive in exactly zero runs. Anyway, Ichiro went 2-for-5 for yet another multi-hit game. The Mariners' leadoff hitter, now hitting .365, is at 161 hits on the year and is now on pace to finish with 248 hits. He is 34 hits away from 2000 Major League hits and 39 away from his ninth straight 200-hit season.

It was a night of isolated badness for Mariner arms. Unfortunately, since I picked the starting pitcher for the goat, all I'm left with to talk about in this paragraph is Chris Jakubauskas' eighth inning. He got Mitch Maier with a leadoff whiff, got a pop to second from Yuniesky Betancourt, and Josh Anderson grounded back to Jakubauskas. Well done, former starter. Jakubauskas threw eight strikes out of 13 pitches in his 1-2-3 inning.

1) Adrian Beltre
In his third game back from the disabled list, the Mariners' third baseman went 4-for-4. As mentioned, with the way things went in this game, Beltre got four hits but drove in zero runs. Also, none of the hits went for extra bases. His last extra-base hit was a double on June 25th in Seattle against the Padres. His last home run came on June 16th in San Diego. Anyway, the beauty of a four-hit night is that Beltre's season batting average jumped from .254 to .264. Hopefully the man gets a nice ovation from the Seattle crowd tonight when they return to El Safe. I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is how low the price would have to go to want Beltre back at third base next season. I don't think there's any way I give him a multi-year deal. What kind of long-term deal could he really get, anyway, since he missed one entire month of the season and wasn't exactly scorching the earth? How about he takes a one-year deal and tries to light the American League on fire before taking another hack at a big free-agent contract?

2) Rob Johnson
I still maintain that if this guy gets two hits in a game, he's pretty much guaranteed his spot in the gameballs. The calendar has flipped over to August and Johnson has gone 7-for-15 with two doubles in four games. Johnson is now a not-completely-horrible .230 on the season. This is a guy who finished June hitting .183 and was hitting .195 on July 7th. Another reason Johnson is in this entry is for throwing out Josh Anderson trying to steal second base in the fourth inning. That helped keep the Mariners sort of within reach at 5-2 before the Royals went on their final pouring-on of Jason Vargas. If you combine his July numbers with his August numbers, he's 21-for-67 (.313) with seven doubles and a home run (slugging .463) and eight RBIs. So with Johnson hitting pretty well for the last month-plus, I'd have to say Kenji Johjima is almost rendered obsolete. The only thing now that Johjima can do that Johnson can't do? Seems to me it's grabbing hold of the odd pitch and driving it over the fence. Johnson's only home run of the year came on July 11th.

3) Michael Saunders
He's been up from the minors for not even two weeks. We've learned that Saunders can make homer-grabbing catches at the wall. After he seemed to be largely worthless at the plate at first, we discovered that Saunders could beat out bunts and infield grounders. Then in the middle game of the series, he discovered the extra-base hit, which in this case was a triple. Okay, so there wasn't really anything new in this game. Saunders went 2-for-4 at the plate with two singles. He's now 10-for-40 on his young Major League career, good for .250. The one triple put the negligible bump in his on-base percentage (.286) and his slugging percentage (.300). Meanwhile, in 20 games as a Mariner, Ryan Langerhans has managed to hit six doubles, a triple, and a home run (slugging .419) while going 15-for-62 (.242). I guess the only problem is that both Langerhans and Saunders are lefthanded bats, so Langerhans seems to be pretty much screwed since they seem to want Saunders the young'un to get the bulk of the playing time. Maybe Chris Woodward would still be on this team if he could hit and if he could hit lefthanded.

Jason Vargas
While it's pretty admirable that he weathered the awful first inning and still managed to throw seven innings, there aren't many games your team is going to win if you spot the opposition a five-run lead in the first inning. That's just the way it is. It wouldn't have been half bad if five runs was all the Royals were going to score, but then they roughed Vargas up for three more in the fifth inning, and that pretty much put the game out of doubt. The Royals sent all nine of their hitters to the plate in the first inning. After the spaghetti was fed through the machine, the Royals had piled up five runs on five hits. There were two doubles and Billy Butler's massive home run that shorthopped the Royals Hall of Fame well beyond the leftfield wall. How well can a game possibly go if you walk the leadoff hitter on four pitches? Though he got aboard with an out, it wasn't the first time this series that Bloomquist got aboard and Butler clobbered a pitch. Bloomquist was 2-for-12 with a walk and an RBI in the series, further reinforcing my feeling that I'm glad he's gone. Vargas gave up eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits in seven innings, walking three and striking out none. He threw 65 strikes out of 109 pitches (awful) and got 14 groundouts to six strikeouts. He faced 33 hitters to get 21 outs.

Nothing like opening the homestand with a Felix night. Too bad it's against Tampa Bay.

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